Stovepipe brings Iraq war to mainstage

STOVEPIPEWEBGrinnell’s theatrical performances are in full force this semester from Shakespeare’s vaguely gender bending, seventeenth-century “As You Like It” to a politically charged interactive piece opening next week.
“The first show will be Stovepipe, which is about private security contractors following the Iraq war,” Lesley Delmonico, director and Theater department chair, said. “We will be showing the US premiere…[Stovepipe] was produced in London during April through June and I was teaching there, so I got to see it.”
The show not only marks a second premiere on the Grinnell campus, but also imports international political themes. “I am excited because it’s a show that deals with issues in our own world…throughout campus we haven’t talked that much about the war in Iraq and what happens afterwards,” said Delmonico. The story follows the struggles of a soldier who sustained substantial psychological damage during the war and the struggles of a private security contractor in trying to locate this soldier.
“The subject matter is very current and the story is very powerful. I think that combination will really make it resonate with viewers,” Malcom Scott ’11, who plays one of three private service contractors, said.
Aside from the play’s relevancy, it is also eye opening. Because of how heavily the US relied on outsourcing for soldiers, private security contractors are relatively unique to the Iraq war. Additionally, the majority of people can imagine the difficulty of returning to society after the turmoil of war, but few can imagine this at the intense level “Stovepipe” allows for.
In an effort to address the sociological and political implications of the piece, Delmonico has taken substantial steps to insure not just that the play is open to the entire Grinnell community, but also that it is highly interactive. “We have a fellow in town who has spent time in Iraq [and he] is going to come in and speak to us and another person is going to come in and teach guys how to handle a gun,” Delmonico said.
The tactile, active nature of the performance will also involve a promenade requiring the audience move around throughout the piece. As a result, the audience will be limited to 70 people.
“The production of Stovepipe is unique in that the audience physically travels from space to space throughout the play—there is no single stage,” Kevin Jennison ’12, another private service contractor, said. “The actors are in very close quarters— literally within reach—of audience members throughout the play, which forces a sense of submersion absent from other plays.” The audience embarks on an adventure with the cast that includes five-star hotel bars, seedy brothels and war-torn desert landscapes.
So far the gravity of the subject matter has both inspired the cast and brought them closer together.
“We’re already doing so great, I’m really looking forward to how polished the show will be when we open,” Scott said.
“Stovepipe” will open Oct. 8 at 7:30 p.m, run through Oct. 10 at 7:30 p.m. and close Oct. 11 at 2 p.m.
Although “Stovepipe” is a serious, politically minded piece, the department Shakespeare’s “As You Like It,”a pastoral comedy, is somewhat lighter. “As You Like It” follows heroine Rosalind as she flees persecution in her uncle’s court, accompanied by her cousin Celia and Touchstone the court jester, to find safety and eventually love in the forest of Arden. The next two department sponsored pieces will include “Flowers of Eve,” produced by Craig Quintero ’12, and a sight specific dance piece in locations throughout campus and downtown.